What’s Vicki Courtney’s favorite Christmas tradition? What was the worst Christmas gift Jennifer Rothschild ever received? How does Kelly Minter keep the focus on Jesus throughout the Christmas season?
We asked our LifeWay Women authors some questions about their favorite Christmas traditions and memories. We think you’ll enjoy their responses! Merry Christmas!
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Does your family have any unusual Christmas traditions?
Every year, beginning when my kids were very young, I would let them each pick out a Hallmark ornament after Christmas when they were 40-50% off and pack them away for the next year. When the next Christmas rolled around, they were so excited to hang their new ornaments (along with all the other ones). Today, two decades later, our tree is filled with these ornaments and my grandson is just mesmerized by them.
Somewhere along the way, my dad decided our family would grill steaks for Christmas Eve dinner. It’s the one Christmas tradition that does not change. My dad has grilled in the pouring rain, in snow storms, and on whatever grill is available wherever we are all together. I can’t remember a Christmas without this meal, and it makes me happy to now be the keeper of his fun tradition.
Our entire extended family takes part in a Wiffle ball or bocce ball tournament on Christmas afternoon (after gorging on spinach quiche and cheese grits). We have such a blast running around cheering for each other and diving in the grass for errant balls. It’s not quite as “tender” as our Christmas Eve Bible reading, but it epitomizes the joy and togetherness we’ve been so blessed to have as a family!
Have you ever experienced a Christmas “disaster”?
During the spring a few years ago, Leif and I decided we would “go green” for the holidays and grow our own Christmas tree. We purchased a seedling that was less than two inches tall. I didn’t calculate how long it would take to grow a Christmas tree. By the time the holidays arrived, our seedling was only two and a half inches tall. We called him Charlie Brown.
One year, we got our kids a trampoline as their big Christmas present. My husband waited for his dad to arrive the day before Christmas to put it together. Unfortunately, my husband came down with the flu and, on top of that, we experienced a rare freeze in Austin, Texas on Christmas Eve. My poor husband stayed up half the night and put it together together with a 102 fever, shivering outside in the freezing cold. By the time he finally crawled into bed, he’d only had a couple of hours to sleep before the kids woke up and wanted to see what “Santa” brought. The poor guy is still talking (grumbling?) about the Christmas Eve of 1995 to this day!
Three years ago I was speaking at a fancy Christmas event with about 700 women. Right when I got to the part about putting your hope in Jesus, one of the candelabras caught the tablecloth on fire! It ended up being a great illustration for the power of the Holy Spirit!
One year, while visiting our family across the country for the holidays, we received a call that our apartment complex caught fire and burned to the ground. When we found out a little more information, we discovered that our apartment was the only one that didn’t burn. We had lots of water and smoke damage, but our place was still there.
—Mary Jo Sharp
What’s the best Christmas gift you ever received? The worst?
Don’t tell my husband this, but the worst gift I ever got was from him on our first Christmas together. He gave me a set of screwdrivers. No kidding. They weren’t even cute. He thought it was a good idea until I opened a gift right after his from our friend James. James gave me a Debby Boone tape that I had wanted. I squealed and gave James a big thanks. Phil noticed that the response to the screwdrivers was slightly less enthusiastic, and he has never given me anything that even remotely resembles tools since!
The best Christmas gift I’ve ever received was a Honda 70 dirt bike when I was eight years old. As soon as I saw it under the tree with a giant red bow, I squealed and got dad to help me take it outside and get it started. Within the first few minutes of my riding career, I tried to jump a huge gopher hole and had a spectacular wreck. I’ve been a big fan of two-wheeled vehicles and leather pants ever since!
My dad bought me my first “nice” guitar when I was in high school. He left it on the stairs which led up to our living room. It was a Gibson Gospel. I still have it and it’s what really got me playing the guitar.
How do you keep the focus on Jesus during Christmas?
When my kids were young, we would have them write a letter to Jesus, seal the letters in an envelope, and put the envelope under the tree. We would read the letters on Christmas morning before opening the gifts and say a prayer of thanks for His birth.
Over the years, we’ve tried many different things: from baking a birthday cake for Jesus to participating in Christmas Eve candlelight services. However, I think that while those efforts were endearing for us, they may not have been so effective. The most impacting method I’ve found for our family is to be intentional about centering our minds and thoughts around Christ everyday. As we are growing individually in our maturity in Christ, so grows the depth and meaning of the Christmas season for us. Presents, parties, and events could never provide us with such a reward.
—Mary Jo Sharp
I actually long for Him during this season. I think all the hustle and bustle and the extraordinary focus on so much “stuff” actually gives me a deeper hunger for the simplicity of His Presence. You live through enough Christmas seasons and you realize how fleeting the trappings are. It makes me long for what is substantial and fulfilling long-term.
What’s your favorite ornament on your tree and why?
I love the official White House ornaments my brother David has given me over the years. He used to work for a congressman and always bought us the annual national ornaments. And, now he is running for congress himself!
I have this Hallmark ornament my daughter picked out when she was four years old (she’s now 23). It’s a little phone that lets you record a message, so we recorded her saying, “Hi, my name is Paige Courtney and I’m 4 1/2 years old and I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.” Every year when I hang the ornament, I push the button and hear that little voice from so many years ago wishing us a Merry Christmas. And, yes, I cry every single year when I push that button. I tell mothers of little ones to get a recordable ornament because you WILL forget what your babies sounded like some day.
When I became a single mom, I started a travel tree. At first my kids would roll their eyes when I’d say, “We have to find an ornament from this place for our tree.” But that tree has become everyone’s favorite. Now the kids are always the first to say, “We have to find an ornament.”
How early do you put your tree up, and how late do you take it down?
We always put our tree up on Thanksgiving evening or the day after. But, I use to be such a Type-A that I began taking down the tree on Christmas night! Seriously. My husband Phil didn’t want me to but I just wanted to get the clutter out of my living room (so I could de-clutter my life). But, the truth is, I wasn’t enjoying the holiday; I wasn’t entering into a spiritual experience celebrating Christ.
We put it up the weekend after Thanksgiving and don’t take it down until January 1st. We have a huge New Year’s Eve party with our closest family friends, so we keep it up through New Years.
I put the tree up Thanksgiving weekend, if at all possible. I aim to take it down right after New Years Day, but I hopefully have it down by Valentine’s Day.
—Mary Jo Sharp